Fred Vasseur: the saviour of Ferrari or just a return to form?


Despite the fact that the 2022 Formula One season is over, its drama has continued to dominate headlines. The one issue which has dominated? Silly Season.  Even when we all thought it was all over, Team Principals decided to have a go, with the Team Principals Williams, McLaren and Alfa Romeo all stepped down in a week, with two roles still left to be filled.

However, all eyes have been drawn to the team who seemingly started it: Ferrari.

After a terrible season where, despite at the start of the season having the faster car, their chances of winning the championship was diminished by operational and strategic failure, Ferrari have decided to replace their Team Principal of four years Mattia Binotto. The decision, which had been rumoured before the season had even ended, meant that the Italian team had to find a replacement for him.

This replacement has come in the form of Fred Vasseur. Vasseur’s name had been in the running for a while and was seen by many as the logical conclusion for the Team Principal of Ferrari, being seen by many pundits to be officially confirmed for the role even before Binotto had even exited the role.

But what made Vasseur such an appealing candidate that no other name was seemingly considered? Coming into the role with 25 years’ worth of motor racing experience, including time as team boss of Alfa Romeo (formerly Sauber), Vasseur possesses the knowledge and skills needed to be the boss of the most famous team in F1.

However, what made the ex-Alfa Romeo Team Principal the perfect solution to Ferrari’s unique set of woes? It is undeniable that he has a good track record. Though by virtue of being a midfield team, Alfa Romeo he has not seen much success in F1, it was Vasseur as a Team Principal who helped Nico Rosberg (one-time F1 Champion) and Lewis Hamilton (Seven-time F1 Champion) claim victory in the GP2 series, which is now known as Formula Two.

Vasseur is also believed to have a better relationship with Charles Leclerc than Binotto, having been his Team Principal in Leclerc’s short stint in Sauber (now Alfa Romeo and soon to be Sauber again). He was also Leclerc’s Team Principal during his time in GP3 and F2 which saw Leclerc win both titles.

Vasseur will bring an outsider’s perspective to the team, something that has been desperately missing from the team

Leclerc was rumoured to have fallen out with Binotto over his handling of the team this season, which had seen Leclerc chances of being named drivers champion taking out of his control, and meant the former championship leader had to fight for second place.

A close relationship with Leclerc, who at this point is undeniably the driver that Ferrari want to win the championship, puts Vasseur in a better position than Binotto was last year. Being able to work with the drivers is something that Binotto seemed to struggle with, with both Leclerc and his teammate Carlos Sainz’s frustration more evident every Grand Prix as they battled with the seemingly never-ending Ferrari strategy changes. Vasseur represents the breath of fresh air.

However, the most important element of the ex-Alfa Romeo Principal is his unique background for a Ferrari Team Principal. This new era of leadership marks a break from how Ferrari picked their Team Principal internally (Binotto had been technical director before his promotion, while his predecessor Maurizio Arrivabene had been senior executive).

Vasseur will bring an outsider’s perspective to the team, something that has been desperately missing from the team since the dominant era of Michael Schumacher. Ferrari, a team known for being insular will no doubt benefit from this perspective as it tries and deals with the operational failures which led to its failures this season.

But thinking that Fred Vasseur can solve all of Ferrari’s problems overnight is like thinking that Theresa May or Rishi Sunak meant we got an entirely new government. Binotto is in his position until January and with the new season at that point only being three months away questions can be raised about how quickly Vasseur can implement change within the team.

The same issues which faced Ferrari — lack of reliability and operational issues — may be lessened under Vasseur, not magically solved unless he is willing to make serious changes to the team. Vasseur will need to commit to dramatically reshaping Ferrari’s team if he is in any chance of returning the team to their former glory, and for a team as isolated as Ferrari this may prove an uphill battle.

Will Vasseur bring the changes the Prancing Horses need? We will need to see. However, with Red Bull’s dominance likely to continue and Mercedes expected to make a return to dominance next year, Vasseur will need all the help he can get.

Image: Joe McGowan via Flickr

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